Since the infancy of the human species, people have been enchanted by the heavens. For a long time, mankind had no idea what it was looking at when it gazed upward. Ancients thought the bright dots in the sky were gods. Only 400 years ago, the educated elite believed that the celestial bodies were perfect spheres of light that all revolved around Earth. Half a century ago, man set foot on one of these divine, perfect spheres, having realized long before that Earth’s neighbors were not as ethereal as they were once made out to be. This crowning acheivement of mankind, which would have been absolutely unfathomable by our not-so-distant ancestors, was made possible by NASA.
In the years following the Moon landing, NASA’s funding has tapered off considerably. Currently, NASA receives only half a penny of every tax dollar, so little that NASA can not even afford to send its own astronauts into space anymore. Penny4NASA, a nonprofit, grassroots organization, hopes to increase this rate to at least one percent, just one penny, of every tax dollar. Through their website, www.penny4nasa.org, and in their front-page video named Imagine, Penny4NASA uses pathetic appeals to dreamers and patriots alike, makes logical arguments to demonstrate that funding NASA benefits everyone, and takes advantage of the kairotic opportunity presented by the decline of the US economy and job market.
The aforementioned video begins with an emotional appeal meant to remind its audience of what it was like to dream big. The viewer first sees a little girl playing outside at night. As she skips around in the grass, she stumbles upon a penny, picks it up, and gazes at the stars. If the viewer pays close attention to the girl’s facial expressions of awe, it is clear that the creators are trying to convey that the girl is feeling a sense of wonder for the night sky, a feeling that most people are familiar with. This shot is meant to remind the viewer of a time, probably during childhood, when they earnestly aspired to explore and know the moons, planets, and possibly even other solar systems. The creators are aware that the early desire to be an astronaut is generally a commonplace amongst people, and they exploit it subtly but effectively. And, by illustrating the girl picking up a coin, the creators imply that this curious, aspirational inner-spacechild of the viewer can be catered to for a mere penny, something one can find just laying around in the grass. This isn’t the last shrewd use of pathos in the video.
The next emotional appeal comes when the narrator rouses the viewers’ nationalistic passions by asking them to “imagine if, once again, [the US] stood at the forefront of innovation.” This request is meant to remind Americans that their country is not what it once was, and to get old patriots to remember the pride they felt for their country back when America was made the indisputable top dog by the Moon landing. It also calls attention to the fact that other countries are becoming more innovative than America, a very scary thought to someone afflicted with the xenophobia that goes hand-in-hand with flag-waving ideaologies.The creators hope that these patriots, who want a reason to boast and gloat about America again, will take action for the organization.
Appeals to logic are also well-represented in the video and on the website. About halfway through the video, the narrator presents NASA’s annual budget, $17.8 billion, and compares it to annual US oil subsidies, $41 billion. The narrator then refers to oil as a “technology of yesterday”, a waste of an amount of money that is more than double NASA’s budget. This statement appeals to the emerging ideaology of environmental consciousness in modern America and is logically valid, as combustion engines are being replaced by more and more hybrid, electric, and, very enticingly, hydrogen engines. Logos can also be found in the “mission” tab of Penny4NASA’s website. This tab has a section simply entitled “Why?” that reads, “the bulk of progress we have witnessed in the last 40 years comes from the world’s extremely talented scientists and engineers. Now, talk to most any scientist or engineer of the last 40 years, and we’re willing to bet that they were drawn into their chosen field by something NASA related. And more often than not, they refer to the Apollo, Gemini and/or Space Shuttle programs where humans were physically advancing a frontier.” Here, Penny4NASA starts with a commonplace, that the world’s progress comes from STEMites, and, since those people are generally inspired by NASA, Penny4NASA reasons that funding NASA will foster more inspired scientists and engineers, ready to take on the world’s problems. That is to say, Penny4NASA implies that simply giving money to NASA progresses the world.
Penny4NASA unquestionably found a kairotic opportunity to strike a chord with the downtrodden, economically-disadvantaged modern American public. Obviously, the US has seen better days. The rate of unemployment is hovering around 6.5%, many families are below the poverty line, college expenses are increasing exponentially, Adolf Stalin is the president, etc. In response to these hardships, Penny4NASA writes, under its “mission” tab, that “a huge amount of the funding invested in NASA comes right back into the economy both through revenues created by new technology made possible through NASA science and research, and also through contractors of all sizes which NASA depends on.” With this statement, Penny4NASA is trying to expand its audience by noting that funding NASA can benefit all Americans, not just STEM geeks and space lovers. Penny4NASA included this paragraph in order to appeal to the common man, a guy that is not concerned about exploring the solar system but instead just wants a contracting job. It makes their cause easier to swallow for the average American.
Under that small paragraph, Penny4NASA finds another opportunity to make a pathetic arguement for their mission by including a short list of “new technology made possible through NASA science and research”.This list includes body imaging (CT, CAT, MRI scans), and laser angioplasty, “a system that vaporizes blockages in coronary arteries without damaging arterial walls”. By focusing on predominantly medical technologies, Penny4NASA suggests that giving NASA that extra half-penny on the dollar could save your life in the near or distant future. Also, this list will make some readers think of loved ones who were saved because their cancer was diagnosed early by an MRI scan, or because their arteries could be safely and efficiently unclogged.
With a two-minute campaign video and a website, Penny4NASA is able to communicate oodles of intricate yet varied rhetoric, including appeals to emotion, to logic, and to a derelict, down-on-their-luck American public. This rhetoric is communicated proficiently yet subtly, never seeming overbearing, and it manages to make throwing NASA that extra half-penny seem like a no-brainer.